For Borussia Dortmund, the rest of the 2017-18 season is simply about “survival.” A desire to finish in the top four of the Bundesliga is countered by a manager on his way out and a team which lacks above all else – confidence.
BVB are coming off of one of the worst defeats in club history. It was the worst defeat for the Black and Yellows in the modern era. This unfortunate result came against an opponent against which Dortmund measures itself as well.
“Der Klassiker” has become a hollow term. Dortmund have now lost to Bayern München four times this season and would lose a fifth if they played each other again. Mercifully, they will not.
And so the page turns to VfB Stuttgart. Since bringing manager Tayfun Korkut into the fray the club from Schwaben are undefeated. Not exactly what Dortmund wanted to see on the schedule following the Bayern massacre.
BVB, in fact, have no easy opponents left between now and the end of the season. Even Mainz, relegation candidate Mainz, will be a tough out, as they will be fighting for their very existence in the German top flight.
After being kicked around on the pitch like a rag doll by Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern there are two avenues Dortmund can travel down from now until matchday 34. Either collapse and wave the white flag or rebound and come back stronger.
Peter Stöger believes the pounding BVB received at the hands of Bayern could be a positive thing, as was reported by our very own Stefan Buczko earlier this week. The only way to find out if this is true is when Dortmund takes to the pitch again this weekend.
Three VfB players that should keep Dortmund on high alert are German International striker Mario Gomez, Daniel Ginczek, and the Bundesliga’s best winter transfer in 2018, Erik Thommy.
Stuttgart have not lost since late January and have won five of their previous seven matches. Korkut’s squad finds itself a mere four points adrift from a possible European place (seventh in the table should get the job done yet again this season).
For VfB, one of Germany’s most successful clubs, a return to Europe only two years after being relegated would be a massive accomplishment, especially considering how the side was performing only ten weeks ago under the previous manager Hannes Wolf.
Stuttgart has been one of the worst clubs in the Bundesliga away from home for most of this season, though, they have reversed their fortunes recently, having won their last three matches away from the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
What would have been considered an easy match on paper a few months ago, is no longer the case as we approach Sunday. Dortmund will need to execute with precision should they hope to take all three points.
There is no doubt that VfB Stuttgart, in-form as they may be, are nowhere near as capable of dominating an opponent as Bayern München. Stuttgart however, can take a page from the Bayern playbook in their win against BVB last weekend.
VfB need only sit back, wait, and let Dortmund come at them. The individual errors from BVB’s players will surely come eventually. When those errors do occur, VfB can capitalize by hitting Dortmund with quick counter-attacks.
Stuttgart’s back line, while certainly not on par with what BVB faced last week, should certainly not be taken lightly. Names such as Benjamin Pavard, Holger Badstuber, and Emiliano Insua make up what can certainly be described as a formidable defence.
Having already defeated die Schwarz-Gelben once this season, VfB will continue their pursuit of Europe and their attempt to claim a perfect six points from Stöger’s side.
In order to prevent this, BVB must be much improved from what they displayed five days ago. The Umbruch (transitional period) is coming for Dortmund, but until then, they must push forward with the players that currently reside within the club.
This means Sokratis should be benched in favour of Ömer Toprak. Gonzalo Castro should never step back on a pitch in a black and yellow shirt. And Andre Schürrle should make way for younger, more-talented wingers.
Based on Peter Stöger’s demeanour it is hard to assess where his mind is at the moment. I do believe he wants to finish the season on a high note and qualify BVB for the 2018-19 Champions League. He is also likely starting to think about where his next stop on the employment train will be once his Dortmund contract expires in June.
BVB stand at a crossroads with six matches left in the 2017-18 season. They control their own destiny, however, the path, as previously mentioned, is not an easy one. They can ill-afford to look ahead to next week’s Revierderby and take Stuttgart lightly.
It is crunch time for Borussia Dortmund. With a manager on his way out, no tactical philosophy, and a roster full of players who could be both mentally and physically exhausted, perseverance and survival will be the main goal from now until mid-May.
PREDICTION: VfB Stuttgart 1:1 Borussia Dortmund
BVB: Bürki – Piszczek, Akanji, Toprak, Schmelzer – Weigl, Dahoud – Pulisic, Reus, Philipp – Batshuayi
Manager: Peter Stöger
VfB: Zieler – Beck, Pavard, Badstuber, Insua – Aogo – Ascacibar – Gentner, Thommy – Ginczek, Gomez
Manager: Tayfun Korkut